09 May 2011

How Far Back Can Your Memory Take You?

This was the opening sentence in one of the books I wrote more than ten years ago. Note: I made books for myself which I sometimes share with friends but never published. . . . Anyway, I asked this a year after my Mom died. I wanted to capture the memories of my parents so I started asking myself these questions and started writing about it.

I closed my eyes and can still remember vividly my growing years as a toddler when all my siblings were in school and I was left home with my mother and grandmother, my mother's mother. My mother had me when she was menopausal so she and my Papa were not expecting any more children, after all they had two older girls and two boys after. I was the 8th child (my mother lost 3 other babies at childbirth) and I was born at 8 in the morning and at 8.8 pounds normal delivery. Mama said that when I was born my hair was so thick, black and full and I was the biggest in the nursery. Mama was so scared that I would not grow up to be normal so Mama took great pains to take care of me in my growing years. At age 3 I was still breastfed until I bit my Mama's nipple and the doctor patiently asked my age (I can still vividly remember the scene which is why I can reference my memory) and the doctor told me that I was already ready to take milk from a glass. I cried for days. Mama cried with me. I wanted my Mama's milk and Mama had enough to feed me. We both felt disconnected.

In my growing years I always have creative projects going on at home. In grade school I was my Papa's secretary typing his letters and drawing maps for his survey reports and marketing analysis (yes, I enjoyed and learned business early) and with Mama we pored over fashion, food, and family events. Although housebound, Mama was an excellent dressmaker and I designed my own clothes which Mama would sew for me. I was slim and the perfect mannequin for Mama. We also argued and pined about aesthetics, curtains, linens, furnishings, accessories and we both love good stories, music, home-cooked food, nature, animals, rituals and traditions. At a young age I harnessed my creative spirit at home . . .

I remember the scene so well: I got home and found Mama in bed. Mama was rarely bedridden so it was alarming. My father died the year before and my older sister Luchie was housebound because she decided to play surrogate parents to my brother's kids who were having learning problems and thus the kids stayed with us. Luchie painfully told us that Mama suffered a mild stroke which affected her right brain and made the left part of her body paralyzed. Without arguments we immediately rearranged our schedules. My other older sister Loyd would keep watch over Mama from dinner to midnight after which Loyd would wake me up at midnight and I would take over Loyd's place beside Mama until Luchie gets up in the morning. Then Luchie takes care of Mama for the whole day while me and Loyd would go to work. We kept this back-breaking schedule until Mama died the following year.

Somebody asked me if it was better to witness somebody dying this way than in a sudden accident. I honestly do not know. What I know is that my experience with my parents and other people's death has not affected my view of life and death. In life as in death we miss out on the special moments when we closed our eyes to scenes and events that we consider painful: sickness, arguments, isolation, separation . . . instead of going fully into the experience and finding yourself, to realize that you are not broken but whole. It is in those delicate moments and conditions that we discover ourselves fully which make us stronger and define our true self.

Had I got affected by my Mama's condition and escaped the experience, for I could have easily excused myself and escaped from the responsibilities of caring for Mama, I would have missed out on life's defining moment. But love, that simple wonderful word, was all it took for me and my sisters to immediately embraced the moment. There was no arguments. We wanted to care for our parents in their old age and when they got sick it was natural for us to devote ourselves fully into the task. Had I not done that I would have missed out on the wonderful sharing that pieced together the missing puzzle pieces of my life with Mama and Papa. For in those private, quiet time of caring for them, stories and affections are shared and where great stories are given its happy endings.

From the time I was 3 until my Mama's death, I realized that there never was a disconnection. I would even dare venture to state that even beyond death, because until now, my parents were always present, in the little and the big things I do, the decisions I make, the relationships built and broken and made whole again, the love, the passion, the will to serve, to connect, will never be possible if they are not there.

From the bud to the flowering to the fading and falling we breathe our spirit of connection that can only be called love . . .

For Lisa of
we exchange creatives
that bore the imprints
of our creative tales.

And for everyone
Happy Mothers Day!


lisa said...

I read this twice Lui, and I am sure to read it again. What a beautiful post, and wonderful memories you have.

Thank you so much for sharing this today at The Creative Exchange. It is so perfect for it.

Have a wonderful evening.


Denise said...

Oh my goodness Lui, this is a wonderful post. I enjoyed reading it from beginning to end. Beautiful!

Pat said...

What a truly beautiful post, Lui!

clairz said...

This is a wonderful piece, very creative and inspirational. Lovely blog, Lui.

The Chair Speaks said...

Thank your for visiting and sending hugs.
You have good memory and much loved.

Nadira Cotticollan said...

What a treat to the eyes and the mind this page is.I'm coming back for sure to read more. You seem to have all the right "connections" in life. Happy to know you Lui:-)

Viola said...

Dear Lui,
It's a long time since I was visiting your blog, but now.... I've seen all your previous posts and this one via Google's Reader.

I got so touched.. reading about your mama, and your papa, tears came out of my eye.. You and your sisters are warm and gentle I think, taking care of your mama to the end..

And now I understand why you are such a good person, the love you've got from your parents, and the love you gave back to them.

Thank you for sharing a nice story Lui! :)

And the picture of your papa.. a handsome man..

Your garden is very beautiful, but soooo hot?!?! 36 grades!! I can understand it's hot for Sweepy and Sumo!! And I hope you see the kitten again and that the kitten is just doing fine, as your dogs and all the beauty of life in your garden. And YOU!! :))

Kisses from Viola and Pusa! :)